Do you experience hurtful comments, constant criticism, gaslighting, or guilt-tripping within your family? Or have members of your family even threatened you with violence or abandonment?

If this resonates with you, then you may be experiencing emotional abuse. Before we go any further, you need to understand what an abusive family is and how to recognize it. 

Emotional abuse is a form of psychological manipulation where the abuser uses tactics like belittling, humiliation, gaslighting, threats, etc in an attempt to control the person they’re abusing. Victims of emotional abuse may not even be aware that they’re experiencing abuse and trauma. 

Dealing with highly critical parents or family members is one thing, but dealing with an emotionally abusive family is quite another. Let’s talk about some of the signs that can help you recognize emotional abuse.

Signs of Emotional Abuse


Gaslighting is a form of manipulation where the abuser attempts to confuse the victim and make them doubt their own memories. If you’re a victim of gaslighting, you may experience self-doubt, insecurity, and questioning your own judgment and intuition. 

Humiliation and Criticism

Humiliation and constant criticism can manifest by the abuser insulting you, name-calling, trying to embarrass you with sarcastic comments, or making you feel “stupid.” This abuser can over-criticize and constantly point out mistakes, which can make you feel insecure and anxious. 


There may be times when an emotionally abusive family member even tries to control your behaviors. This can include monitoring phone calls and texts, dictating clothing choices, watching your every move, and even monitoring what you eat.


Many emotionally abusive people are very unpredictable. This can take the form of drastic mood swings, starting arguments out of nowhere, and acting differently in public than they do behind closed doors.

The Effects of Emotional Abuse

All of these things start to take a tremendous toll on you and studies have shown that emotional abuse can have the same traumatic effect on your mental health as physical abuse. Prolonged emotional abuse can lead to problems like anxiety, low self-esteem, and even depression. It can also affect the development of a young child and lead to problems like: 

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Difficulting controlling and regulating emotions
  • Trust issues
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Children who experience emotional abuse and trauma at a young age are at a greater risk of developing toxic behavior as they grow into adults. In certain cases, it can even lead to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) which can cause angry outbursts, insomnia, and negative thoughts. 

How to Deal With Emotionally Abusive Family Members

So, how do you begin to deal with emotionally abusive family members? 

  • Express your emotions where it’s through journaling or by confiding in a trusted loved one
  • Try having an honest conversation with the abusive family member about how you feel
  • Establish boundaries between yourself and the abusive family member is a good way to distance yourself from their behavior
  • If you’re unable to have a conversation with the abuser, consider cutting contact with them completely to protect your health
  • Practice self-care through hobbies or activities that bring you joy and help you cope with your situation

Also, work to build a support network, whether that’s through friends, groups, or therapy. Sharing your feelings and speaking up about your experience can be part of the healing process. 

If you’ve been dealing with an emotionally abusive family member, and you’re ready to seek professional help, get in contact with me today and let’s start your healing journey together.